Wednesday, May 21, 2014

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Closing Shop

Though it wasn’t always the case, I am an early riser. As I have done on thousands of mornings, I am nursing my second cup of tea and have answered the most pressing emails before sunlight has even hit the roof. At this early hour, fifteen or twenty minutes might pass between each stray car and truck that trundles by our old California craftsman home. This quiet lull is my favorite part of the day. Even the cat can’t be bothered to get out of bed. Soon, though, when the New Yorkers wake, I’ll start putting in calls to the East Coast and begin the day in earnest.

Yet today is different. Today I’m throwing a tarp over the Whiskey Forge and closing up shop. Regular readers — bless you, every one — will not be surprised. You will have seen this coming. The posts have grown more sporadic than they’d ever been and, although I have plenty to write about, the time it takes to research, write, edit and put up good, original, quality content simply isn’t there. I will not write insipid posts about the top five drinks you simply must have in Brooklyn, fifteen things you didn’t know about absinthe, the seven best breakfasts in Palm Springs, America’s ten best microdstilleries, or other such noise blogs churn out when they’re clawing for attention — or circling the drain.

John Held Jr illustration for the 1930 book
The Saloon in the Home or A Garland of Rumblossoms

I’d love to tell you about the trips I’ve taken to Germany, to the UK, and around North America to bars, distilleries, and spirits and cocktail competitions. How awesome would it be to share news about great music, books, and films? Curated information about cool stuff from an actual curator! [Well, a retired one, anyway.] The food and drinks I’ve downed in the last six months alone are more than any person deserves.

But those will have to wait.

While I’ve had great success professionally, the last year has been trying personally. Several friends have died. One took a dive off a building and ate the sidewalk, leaving his widow bereft, his children fatherless, and me swirling in a stew of anger, contempt, and, ultimately, acceptance. Although much of my professional writing involves — and will continue to involve — alcohol, a gout diagnosis made me realize that my nights of excess that elide into morning are, for the most part, behind me. Not long ago, I participated in an intervention for someone I love very much. It remains a heartbreaking mystery to me how alcohol is an enjoyable pastime for most people while it lays waste to the lives of others.

Work continues. There are book chapters to write and edit for others. I’ve joined the editorial board of David Wondrich’s forthcoming Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails. I continue to write for magazines, give public talks, chime in on radio and television, and consult on the occasional script. Work travel over the next few months will take me around the United States and probably Scotland, Germany again, London, perhaps Cuba. Not sure about that one, but there will be distilleries nearly everywhere I go. An aggressive publishing schedule for a new book has put an end to most socializing. When I looked for things to cut from my schedule, movies and weeknight drinking were easy. Then dinners with friends got the axe, as did non-essential travel, video games, and writing in coffee shops (which is so often a writer’s dodge for doing actual work). Facebook? Yeah, you’ll find me there, but don't bother: in truth I barely engage. You might have better luck on Twitter where I am @mbrowley.

What was left to cut? The Whiskey Forge, of course.

At the end of the day, I’m an historian and writer, not a blogger. The Whiskey Forge has been a side project since 2008, but I’ve never accepted paid ads, never took money for writing about anything, never tried to monetize the thing in any way. All on purpose. By design, it is not a revenue stream. With no interns, no assistants, and no staff of any kind — not even a bar back — the blog needs to be put aside.

Not permanently, but — for now. I’ve spoken with colleagues about launching again once things get more settled. By the end of the year, there may well be a revitalized Whiskey Forge. But not today.

So. Not goodbye, but auf Wiedersehen. We'll meet again.


FrankO said...

nooooo..... : (

while i love seeing you pop up in my twitter feed (and we have had nice exchanges there), i always look forward to your writing here because it allows you the space to stretch and follow thought trails that twitter doesn't (not to mention post amazing recipes, like your ginger pie...). i was wondering at your silence on twitter lately, and now i understand the behind-the-scenes, as it were. i'm sorry you've had such a trying year -- my condolences for your losses, too. don't be a stranger. i'm going to watch this space, and twitter, too, of course. until next time!

Sylvan said...

Sad to see this go on hiatus and can't wait until you can find time to fire the Forge back up. Thanks for all the fun, informative, quality posts!

Doug Winship said...

Keep in touch, dude! We shall miss all your good work.

Matthew Rowley said...

Thank you, gentlemen ~ you warm the cockles of my heart (and the whelks of my spleen). It will be strange indeed to wrestle with the idea that if I've got a bee up my snoot about something, I'll have to keep it to myself, con a friend to put it on her blog, or polish that nugget and send it off to an editor. Some things will go on Twitter, but you're right, Frank; it doesn't give one room to stretch. Meanwhile, my nose is buried in old books and my German is getting better, the point of which will all be revealed when the new book drops.

Nathan Lutchansky said...

Best of luck to you, Mr. Rowley. I look forward to the day our paths cross again in the "real world".

Andrew Faulkner said...

The passing of an era. I look forward to seeing you forge forward onto other things. To your health!

Lucas said...

Love the site, love your work. Completely understand why you gotta do what you gotta do. Again, thanks for all the great work. Can't wait to see what's next.

Matthew Rowley said...

Nathan ~ New Orleans or Manhattan perhaps? If you get to Berlin or Munich by next Spring, let me know; I may be knocking around those parts.

Drew ~ And to yours! A hiatus rather than a passing. You and I, in fact, may see more of each other in the next few weeks. I'll catch you offline.

Matthew Rowley said...

Lucas ~ Thank you. I'll still be writing and, since you're in the industry, I imagine you'll see some of it. It won't be quite like the 'Forge, but it will most certainly be about booze. And maybe travel. The Whisky Advocate issue that's about to drop has a few of my pieces and more will crop up here and there. Cheers!

Dagreb said...

While I'm not the most loyal reader I have always enjoyed The Forge. I wish you well Mr. Rowley. Whenever I encounter a page with an asterism I shall think of you.
Be well.

Lucindaville said...

Selfishly sad, you are a class act Mr. Rowley and you will be greatly missed.

Sam Komlenic said...

We all will miss your engaging topics, your insight into the world of booze, and for me, most importantly, your perspective on illicit spirits.

I'll not soon forget the first post of yours that I encountered here, the one about the male prostitute whose eye you inadvertently caught, and, when you told him your interest was not him, but moonshine, he was disgusted by the thought.

I'll continue to polish up your excellent work in Whisky Advocate and will look forward to the inevitable day when our paths will finally cross.

All the best to you.


George Sawyer said...

You will be missed.

You've been a bastion of 'quality' in a 'quantity' world, and delightfully idiosyncratic in your writing topics.

Best of luck & Happy Trails. Perhaps someday we'll host a glass together on the Islets of Langerhans (turn sharp right at the whelks of your spleen)

Broderick said...

Bummer, I was looking forward to the Kings County Distillery review :)

H. said...

You know where to find me, and I, you. See you in the next round.

Matthew Rowley said...

Aw, hell yes, H. There's a project brewing up in San Francisco that'll bring me back. Last time I blew through town, I stopped at Elixir — as I said I wouldn't — without giving you a heads up. Will have more leisure next time.

George ~ The Islets of Langerhans, eh? Soft tissue's not my forte (more of a bone man myself), but I'll toast you the next time I happen to hook a ralph at the whelks of my spleen.

Broderick ~ That shall have to remain, with apologies to Langston Hughes, a montage of a whiskey deferred.

Sam ~ Ah, I remember that day as if it were yesterday...and cringe all anew. Buried these days in 19th century booze, but when I come up for air, there'll be more in print.

Dagreb ~ As it turns out, I'm not the most consistent writer, so we are well matched. ⁂

Lucindaville ~ Cheers. I liked your recent post about pencils — as you can imagine, I can get geeky about writing tools. In Munich, I moseyed into a store called Maufactum which had, in addition to cloister bitters, copper bath tubs, and beer-scented shampoo, plenty of pricey writing kit. I passed on the gall ink, but think I may have to go back and snag a bottle.